EASTON — An annual breakfast celebrating Talbot County business community became a smorgasbord of inspirational stories Wednesday, May 3, for those who crowded the Gold Room at the Tidewater Inn in Easton.
Strategic planning expert Mark Perna wowed nearly 200 local business and nonprofit organizational leaders with his keynote insights generously laced with humor, but the video stories and personal thanks by Community Impact Award winners were powerful, as well (see related story).
The 16th Business Appreciation Summit 2023 was hosted by Talbot County Economic Development and Tourism in partnership with the Talbot County Economic Development Commission.
Introducing the various speakers and award winners were Commission Chairman Ken Kozel, president and CEO of Shore Regional Health; Cassandra Vanhooser, director of Economic Development and Tourism; and Judy Bixler, chairman of the Talbot Tourism Board and co-owner of the historic Oxford-Bellevue Ferry.
Kozel called Vanhooser the “quarterback” of the team. “Together we help create an environment where new and existing businesses can grow and prosper,” he said. “Together, we build strong, supportive and resilient communities that can weather economic challenges, and create a bright future for future generations.”
Perna addressed assumptions about future generations — in particular “Gen Z” – and challenged the audience to undergo a paradigm shift to embrace the members of that generation to deal with a perceived “tremendous skills gap.”
Perna specializes in helping businesses to close the skills gap with a deeper understanding of younger workers and a strategic perspective in workforce development.
He founded and is CEO of TFS Results in Cleveland, Ohio, a strategic consulting firm. He also founded the “Education with Purpose and Employment with Passion movement, with a mission to connect the pipelines between education, employment and economic development in communities everywhere,” according to the summit program leaflet.
Following the breakfast and awards program, Perna signed free copies of his book “Answering Why: Unleashing Passion, Purpose, and Performance in Younger Generations.”
Perna expanded on the book’s themes in his full two-hour keynote speech to a sell-out crowd later in the afternoon at the Avalon Theatre.
“I don’t believe there’s a skills gap but an awareness gap,” Perna said.
“I think young people in America today are the most extraordinary generation to come down the pike, bar none,” Perna said. “They are the most intelligent, resourceful, and pit bull-like generation that we have ever seen in this country. When they see a ‘want to’ in their lives, they will move heaven and earth to get to that ‘want to.’ Our challenge as parents, educators, employers is getting them to want something.”
The sole platinum sponsor of the event was APG of the Chesapeake. Greeting the audience was Jim Normandin, general manager of the APG East Division and regional president in Maryland, Delaware, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Normandin recognized the election of Megan Cook as Easton’s first woman mayor as a “really big deal” and asked her to stand as the audience, too, stood and applauded.
He described the reach of Adams Publishing Group in general and APG Chesapeake locally as it serves 16 communities. “We want to inspire good dialogue within our communities that we serve,” Normandin said.
“Continue to feed your curiosity,” he said. “Stay focused on building a stronger community together.”
This year’s summit sponsors include Platinum Sponsor APG Chesapeake, Gold Sponsor BSC Group, and Silver Sponsors Easton Utilities, Frost Law, Provident State Bank, Shore United Bank, and the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce.
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